Some say laughter is the best medicine. Mathew Roberts and Shawn Babin say adding in a dose of kayak fishing is even better.
Several years ago, Roberts, Babin and a couple of friends were getting more and more involved in kayak fishing. They started an informal group they call the Troll Squad.
They started making videos of their trips, all in the name of simply fishing and having fun.
It grew into something much more meaningful. As a Marine Corps veteran who served two combat tours, Roberts knows firsthand the stress and struggle many veterans deal with returning to civilian life. He counts himself as one of the fortunate ones, and through his wife Ashley, family and friends, he found a way to deal with those issues.
However, he knows all too well others aren’t so lucky.
“I know what these men and women are going through, and we just thought that getting them out fishing, being around other veterans, laughing and joking would be great medicine for them,” Roberts said.
That was the impetus for their next project: Mission Six. Along with Babin, a former volunteer firefighter, they began inviting veterans and first responders to join them for kayak fishing trips.
“Whether it is a seasoned combat veteran, law enforcement officer, firefighter or paramedic, we understand what they do for us and we simply want to give back,” Roberts said.
Those wanting to take a trip with the Mission Six group can make a call or send an email.
“We provide everything: fishing gear, kayaks and even food,” Roberts said. “It’s all on our dime.”
Knowing the stress, danger and evils faced by these men and women, Mission Six strives to help and protect them in any way possible.
“Whether it is to go kayak fishing or simply to talk, we want them to know that we have their backs, like they have ours,” Roberts said.
To date, the group has taken out more than 60 heroes and held a redfish tournament to raise funding.
“Mathew and I decided we want to give back, but on our terms and how we want to do it,” Babin said. “We began finding local heroes and not just veterans. We bring out all who wear a uniform dedicated to helping and protecting our peers.
“We are fully dedicated to giving back to those who give so much for us.”
Most of their trips are based out of the PAC Kayak Rental launch in Pointe-aux-Chenes, but Roberts said they will travel wherever necessary.
“Eddie and Lisa Mullen have been great supporters of Mission Six, and their facility is easy to launch kayaks and the fishing in the area is fantastic,” he said.
In addition to vets and first-responders, Roberts said they will also take out teachers.
“Teachers are an often overlooked group that plays such a vital role in educating and shaping our youth,” he said. “We can give them a fun little break from their hectic jobs, but it’s also an experience they can take back to their classrooms.”
Sheila Harrison is a Livingston Parish sheriff’s deputy who recently took a trip with Mission Six. She wrote a letter following the trip to describe her experience.
“I just wanted to drop you a note and tell you how much I appreciated your taking me on my first kayak fishing trip,” she wrote. “... (B)etween all the police shootings and losing my home in the recent flooding, well, I guess I didn’t realize how much I needed some down time. As soon as I got on the water, I could feel my cares just fading away. Thank you for your patience with me, as I had no idea what to expect and no experience with fishing outside of stocked catfish ponds. I loved it. It was an amazing day, and I cannot wait to get back out on the water. Thank you again, Mathew, It was the highlight of my vacation.”
Roberts and Babin have big plans to grow their Mission Six agenda. They are looking forward to increasing the number of people they can take out this year. They are scheduling additional tournaments, and are actively seeking sponsors, volunteers and donations of gear and money.
They are currently self-funded and raised some additional monies through the tournament they held in October and the sale of T-shirts and decals.
“Mission Six is more than just taking heroes kayak fishing,” Roberts said. “It’s about healing, relaxing and laughing. It’s about letting them know they are appreciated. We want them to know we have their back — that we have their six.”
How to get involved
Find out more about Mission Six by simply reaching out:
• Mathew Roberts — 225-304-1404
• Shawn Babin225-323-3358
• Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Or you can log onto trollsquadfishing.com or look them up on Facebook by searching for Troll Squad/Mission Six.